×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Taboos

It takes almost two hours, but "Taboos" does get interesting. Scribe Carl Djerassi's conclusions about scientifically assisted reproduction are so pointed they could spark a volatile debate, and, since he helped invent the birth control pill, he's certainly a credible source on modern baby-making.

With:
Sally Parker - Julie Leedes Max Carothers - Blake Delong Harriet Carothers - Helen Merino Cameron Parker - John G. Preston Priscilla Parker - Jenn Schulte

It takes almost two hours, but “Taboos” does get interesting. Scribe Carl Djerassi’s conclusions about scientifically assisted reproduction are so pointed they could spark a volatile debate, and, since he helped invent the birth control pill, he’s certainly a credible source on modern baby-making. Unfortunately, most of his writing is so stilted auds may check out before the good stuff arrives.

The play’s one brilliant scene involves three dolls on a dining room table. They represent three children who have been creatively parented by five people — a lesbian couple, a married couple and a lawyer — in a roundelay of surrogate births, in vitro fertilization and donated eggs. In a silent argument, the parents keep moving the dolls toward whichever person they feel should raise the children.

This moment impresses on many levels. We’re told the doll swapping could result in an actual custody agreement, so every push across the table has consequences. Each move is also a bleakly witty metaphor, reminding us that parents can use their children to get what they want. 

Better still, Djerassi limits the dialogue in this scene, trusting us to get its various meanings ourselves. He should nurture that impulse, because the rest of his play collapses under artless realism.

For one thing, Djerassi cannot write like people speak. For example, when Harriet (Helen Merino), a urologist, concedes she has a “gut feeling” about her new girlfriend Sally (Julie Leedes), her goofball lawyer brother, Max (Blake Delong), quips, “As a physician, you should know that there are more important organs than just the gut for a long-lasting relationship.”

Costumer Adrianna Desier Durantt puts the characters in backwards caps and baggy jeans, and the actors try to make them sound casual, but their tin-eared dialogue just never feels natural. 

The plot is even less organic. Djerassi constructs ridiculous excuses for the five characters to have children together: like Harriet secretly giving her fertilized eggs to Sally’s conservative, Southern brother Cameron (John G. Preston) and his hyper-Christian wife Priscilla (Jenn Schulte), who then spews hateful, obvious rhetoric at her lesbian donor.

Director Melissa Maxwell deserves a medal for keeping the show coherent. She crafts so much physical language that personal relationships are clearer on stage than in the text. The actors, too, do good work humanizing their roles, though Schulte can’t save Priscilla from being a waspish caricature.

Again, these things are frustrating because we see snatches of Djerassi’s real talent. If he could liberate himself from the need to be realistic, he might actually find his theatrical voice.

Taboos

Soho Playhouse; 200 seats; $42.50 top

Production: A Soho Playhouse and Redshift Prods. presentation of a play in two acts by Carl Djerassi. Directed by Melissa Maxwell.

Creative: Sets, Lauren Helpern; costumes and lighting, Adrianna Desier Durantt; sound, Arielle Edwards; video and projections, S. Katy Tucker; production stage manager, Scott Pomerico. Opened Sept. 19, 2008. Reviewed Sept. 14. Running time: 2 HOURS, 5 MIN.

Cast: Sally Parker - Julie Leedes Max Carothers - Blake Delong Harriet Carothers - Helen Merino Cameron Parker - John G. Preston Priscilla Parker - Jenn Schulte

More Legit

  • By the Way Meet Vera Stark

    Off Broadway Review: 'By the Way, Meet Vera Stark' by Lynn Nottage

    After writing two harrowing Pulitzer Prize-winning plays, “Sweat” and “Ruined,” Lynn Nottage is entitled to have a little fun. But while this revival of her new play, “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark,” walks and talks like a screwball comedy, it has a real brain in its head. Before we get too serious, let’s meet [...]

  • Merrily We Roll AlongRoundabout Theatre CompanyMERRILY

    Off Broadway Review: 'Merrily We Roll Along'

    Like the optimistic youths at the end — or is it the beginning? — of “Merrily We Roll Along,” creatives keep going back to this problematic Stephen Sondheim-George Furth musical, re-imagining the show in the hope that the end results will be different this time around. They’re not. But disappointments are often off-set by new [...]

  • My Fair Lady Laura Benanti

    Listen: Laura Benanti on 'My Fair Lady' and the Secret to Her Melania Trump Impersonation

    Laura Benanti is now playing her dream role on Broadway. At the same time, the Tony winner (“Gypsy”) is also playing her toughest part ever. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “It’s the most demanding part I think I’ll probably play,” said Benanti, now appearing as Eliza Doolittle in Lincoln Center Theater’s well-received revival of [...]

  • Hamilton West End Production.

    'Hamilton' Panic Over Mistaken Reports of Gunfire Injures Three in San Francisco

    Three people were injured after mistaken reports of an active shooter at a San Francisco production of “Hamilton” caused attendees to flee the theater. CNN reported that a woman experienced a medical emergency — later determined to be a heart attack — during a scene in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s play wherein Founding Father Alexander Hamilton is shot on [...]

  • The American Clock review

    London Theater Review: 'The American Clock'

    Time is money. Money is time. Both come unstuck in “The American Clock.” Arthur Miller’s kaleidoscopic account of the Great Depression, part autobiography, part social history, crawls through the decade after the Wall Street crash, dishing up snapshots of daily life. In the Old Vic’s classy revival, director Rachel Chavkin (“Hadestown”) tunes into the play’s [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Off Broadway Review: Jake Gyllenhaal in 'Sea Wall/A Life'

    Comfy? Okay, let’s talk Death: sudden death, painful death, lingering death, accidental death, and whatever other kinds of death happen to come into the receptive minds of playwrights Simon Stephens (“Sea Wall”) and Nick Payne (“A Life”). The writing in these separate monologues — playing together on a double bill at the Public Theater — [...]

  • Michael Jackson Estate Cancels Musical Test-Run

    Michael Jackson Estate Cancels Musical Test-Run

    With an HBO documentary that places strong allegations of abuse against Michael Jackson premiering in two weeks, the late singer’s estate announced Thursday that it’s canceling a scheduled Chicago test run of a jukebox musical about him. The estate and its producing partner in the musical, Columbia Live Stage, said that they’re setting their sights on going [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content